Anderson Cooper had never heard!

TUESDAY, JUNE 8, 2021

One part of "Too Big to Care:" Last night, Anderson Cooper spent an hour speaking with Barack Obama. They discussed the needs of the many good, decent kids who may grow up in difficult situations and circumstances.

At one point, Obama spoke with some young men from My Brother's Keeper, a mentoring program he started when he was still in the White House. 

The young men in question are fathers now. Here's part of what was said:

OBAMA (6/7/21): Other than changing diapers, how has [being a father] changed your perspective? And how do you think about it? Because, look, meeting the president, you know, that's cool. But it's not life-changing in the same way that being a parent is.

JAMES ADAMS: Before having a daughter, like, I was able to make stupid decisions. But now that I have a daughter, I have to think about her. I have to think about her mother, her sister because now I'm the man of the house.

And everything that I do is pretty much revolved around her. So I want to be that father that's always there. I want to be the one that you come home from school to, that—that brightens up your day. Anything that you need, you can always come to me.

I didn't have that growing up. I didn't have a father. Like, it was, one point in time, I didn't see my father for, like, ten years.

OBAMA: Right.

ADAMS: So I want to be there for her, through everything.

OBAMA: Fantastic. How about you, Lazarus?

LAZARUS DANIELS: Being a father is—is amazing to me. My baby girl got a great big smile, full of energy, full of life, full of joy. 

I was fortunate to have my father and mother together. One thing [mentoring] helped me out with was being able to speak on things. Because I wasn't able to talk to my father, because he was strictly business.

OBAMA: He was old school?

DANIELS: Old school all the way. I didn't understand that. I just wanted to talk to him and let him know, like, I need to talk to you. I've seen so much that my dad didn't even know I saw.

I think I was, like, seven when aa grown man shot at me. You know what I'm saying? It's so much that you see daily, so much that you see daily, nonstop, that you, as a man, are not supposed to feel. 

When Lazarus Daniels was seven years old, a grown man shot at him. For these young men, as for many young people in many communities, life when they were growing up "ain't been no golden stair." 

For these young men, as for many young people, they may not have gotten all the help they needed at the start of life. 

During the course of the hour, Obama pointed to something we've long marveled at here in Baltimore. He pointed to the moral goodness of so many young people who grew up in ways which were less than perfectly resourced. 

"What you just heard was young black men all across this country," Obama said. "That's who they are. It's not the stereotypes we see on television."

Obama spoke of the circumstances which may hold children back. At one point, Cooper offered a somewhat remarkable statement.

To our ear, what he said was truly striking. He himself didn't seem to know how striking his admission was:

COOPER: But also, how stacked the deck is against so many people in our society, from even before they are born!

OBAMA: Yes.

COOPER: I mean, I heard—I was reading the speech you gave a while back. A figure I had never heard before, that by the age of 3, if you grew up in a low-income family, you've heard 30 million fewer words than a 3-year-old child in a well-off family.

OBAMA: Which means by the time you show up in first grade, you are already significantly behind. Now the good news is it turns out, as you're learning as a parent, kids are amazingly resilient and they can catch up. But it also means that we have to make investments to ensure that they catch up.

Cooper is a major, high-end journalist. Until quite recently, he had never heard of the "30 million fewer words!"

We thought that was a striking admission, but also that it was instructive. Here's why:

The "30 million word gap (by age 3)" thesis has been around since Risley and Hart published their book, Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children, all the way back in 1995.  

The thesis has been offered as an explanation for  large "achievement gaps" which obtain in our public schools.  The thesis has been widely discussed and debated. 

It formed the basis for the Clinton Foundation's "Too Small to Fail" initiative, an initiative which formed part of Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign. (During that campaign, the initiative was rarely discussed, whether by the national press corps or by the candidate herself.)

"The 30 Million Word Gap" has long been offered as one explanation for our academic achievement gaps. It posits a fixable problem in child rearing—a problem which could be addressed, even solved.

The theory has been challenged; it has also been defended. But the fact that Cooper had never even heard of this—well, it's all part of a journalistic phenomenon referred to by our youthful analysts as "Too Big to Care."

Kids who are born to high-literacy parents tend to have a major leg up in school. Kids who are born to low-literacy parents tend to be substantially "behind," even before they enter school—allegedly, by the time they're just three years old!

As we've often noted, our press corps spends little time on such dullsville topics. Simply put, our news orgs don't seem to care. 

In fairness, they may not realize that they don't care; they may not intend not to care. But over the past several decades, they've cared about earth tones and emails a lot. No matter where you look on the political spectrum, they haven't seemed to care about dullsville topics like this.

Anderson Cooper had never heard of the 30 Million Word Gap! We're not saying that Cooper's alone in that lack of awareness, but as part of the journalistic syndrome in question, he didn't seem to realize how strange it might be to hear a top journalist say that.

For extra credit only: The 30 Million Word Gap thesis isn't exactly a secret. You can Google it up for yourselves. We finally realized, some years back, that it's a total waste of time to try to start such discussions.

Nobody cares about topics like this. They care about earth tones and emails. And also, of course, oral sex!

(Was Obama too skinny to get elected? Back in 2008, one scribe even cared about that!)


30 comments:

  1. "in a low-income family, you've heard 30 million fewer words than a 3-year-old child in a well-off family."

    We already knew that dembots are morons. But thanks for confirming it the 30 millionth time, dear Bob.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're still not as funny as terminal cancer, Mao, but you are at least 100 times as funny as Cecelia. So there's that.

      Delete
    2. Anonymouse 10:03pm, I suppose that would mean you’re as funny as flesh eating bacteria.

      Delete
    3. See what I mean about Cecelia's sense of "humor"?

      Delete
    4. There’s one in every crowd, folks...

      Delete
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  2. "(During that campaign, the initiative was rarely discussed, whether by the national press corps or by the candidate herself.)"

    Of course Hillary discussed it. Her education intiatives were one of the important reasons I voted for Hillary instead of Obama. And it was not only on her webpage but also in her speeches and campaign appearances. Of course she discussed it, because her main priorities were families, especially women and children.

    Somerby has said very few positive things about Hillary. He uses any opportunity to knock her. This is just another in a long string of slights -- implying that she never talked about the issues dearest to her heart from her earliest days in politics.

    Somerby should be ashamed of himself to say this. But, like most Republicans, he has no shame.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Then shouldn’t Cooper have heard of the initiative long before?

      Delete
    2. "Hillary discussed it ... in her speeches and campaign appearances."

      Please provide a source for this claim.

      PS - Obama wasn't running in 2016 so you couldn't have voted for him if you wanted to.

      Delete
  3. "Kids who are born to high-literacy parents tend to have a major leg up in school. Kids who are born to low-literacy parents tend to be substantially "behind," even before they enter school—allegedly, by the time they're just three years old!"

    Somerby is misunderstanding the theory a bit. It isn't only being born to so-called low-literacy parents but spending early childhood in an environment without interaction with adults. Kids who only speak with other kids (e.g., who are raised by older siblings) learn fewer words. Kids whose parents are literate but working two or more jobs don't hear as many words because parents are simply not there, or when there are busy with chores. Putting a child in a crib or playpen and leaving them for long periods of time prevents them from acquiring words. And TV is no substitute for human interaction. Putting a child in front of a TV doesn't help them acquire words. "Old school" parents in which adults don't talk to kids because the kids cannot talk back is another part of the problem. None of this involves low literacy.

    When Somerby focuses only on low literacy, he presents an incorrect stereotype of black people as too dumb to be parents. This is majorly unfair when the issue is the need to work more hours to support their family than white parents may do.

    Notice how Somerby grabs the most demeaning explanation for why black children may hear fewer words!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He says low-literacy parents, without designating race. Sorry your implication that Somerby is a racist isn't based on what is in his post today!

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    2. It is implied by the context.

      Delete
  4. Somerby knocks Anderson Cooper for not having ever waded into the weeds in early childhood development and education theory. Or perhaps Cooper was saying he didn't know so that his guest could explain what it was to the audience, and so that those in the audience might be less embarrassed about not knowing this themselves. Sometimes interviewers do that.

    Somerby dislikes Anderson Cooper. It is hard to see why when Cooper is such an inoffensive guy, but this isn't the first time Somerby has manufactured a complaint against him. Because he also dislikes Rachel Maddow and Don Lemon, I suspect he doesn't like gay people much. That would be consistent with his evolution into a full-blown Trumptard.

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  5. "Nobody cares about topics like this."

    In CA there is a First Five program that runs public service ads encouraging parents to talk to their kids, modeling that behavior in a variety of charming everyday situations (at the market, while working around the house).

    In many cities, there has long been a push for early childhood education, including public funding for preschool and pre-kindergarten programs.

    But Somerby says no one cares about kids, so that must be true. Anderson Cooper and his husband recently had a son, Wyatt, born April 27. It is hard to believe Cooper doesn't care about children now that he has a son.

    I would sooner believe that Somerby doesn't care much about the children he uses as his excuse to bash the media. That is pretty much the only time he discusses any issue affecting children -- when it presents a target on his hit list. He has a lot of nerve accusing others of not caring when he himself spends all his time trying to undermine the efforts of others to improve the lives of children, especially those with disadvantages.

    ReplyDelete
  6. So, Anderson Cooper is “too big to care” about the “The 30 Million Word Gap". Or, rather, he was, because there he was talking about it on air, possibly believing it is important, maybe even caring about it.

    Perhaps Somerby is right that Cooper should have known about this before, but I am of the opinion that we should recognize Cooper’s grasping of the importance of the point now and encourage that, rather than looking behind.

    And I can’t help wondering if Somerby thinks that the press ought to care because that would put the issue in front of the American public, kind of like Cooper did here on CNN. And that starts to resemble something one might call a “national conversation” about the “30 Million Word Gap.”

    But we were assured that anything like a national conversation, when suggested by Michele Norris, was a rather fanciful , unworkable idea.

    ReplyDelete
  7. “The "30 million word gap (by age 3)" thesis has been around since Risley and Hart published their book, Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children, all the way back in 1995.  

    The thesis has been offered as an explanation for  large "achievement gaps" which obtain in our public schools.  The thesis has been widely discussed and debated. 

    Widely discussed and debated? Not according to the Daily Howler, who has informed us time and again that no one discusses it.

    But good to know. (And we can all read the same Wikipedia page as Bob).

    I’d also be interested to know how Somerby thinks something like this would ever become policy. It would require public investment.

    Unless it can be funded by tax cuts for big corporations or the wealthy, I just don’t see conservatives going for it. It would require tax money and interventions in economically deprived homes.

    And that is an area where conservatives have always disagreed with liberals, regardless of any discussions of “wokeness.”

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "I’d also be interested to know how Somerby thinks something like this would ever become policy. "

      What's the policy: to send liberals to each low-income family to say 30 million words to Young American Children?

      Delete
  8. Starting at birth until the child’s 3rd birthday if you spoke 1 word per second to him/her 24 hours a day nonstop the sum total of words would be 96,608,000. A word gap of 30 million in three years would require one group to hear on average over 8 hours a day of nonstop speech at one word per second compared with the neglected group. Cooper is perhaps the most well informed here by not knowing this nonsense.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One word per second is very slow speech.

      Delete
    2. Actually, that's not true. For one group to speak 30 million more words to their children than another group, they wouldn't have to speak 96 million words. They could speak 50 million words if the other group only spoke 20 million. There are some families who barely speak to their children. This is a problem as much in poor, rural areas as it is anywhere else.

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    3. Reread my entry. You are repeating what I stated.

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    4. 30 million words/3yrs = 125 pages daily of 220 words per page. There are many gaps in spoken language, Corby.

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  9. The supposed 30 million word gap is based on one ancient small study. It's a dubious statistic.

    If Anderson had reported the statistic, Somerby would probably have been complaining about the stat's basis. Somerby doesn't really care about the stat, naturally. All he cares about is defending Donald Trump, Roy Moore, Ron Johnson, Devin Nunes and now Matt Gaetz, as befits a Trumptard.

    ReplyDelete
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